The 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe

Sporty and cool, even with car seats.

A couple months after my wife and I began dating, another driver ran a red light and totaled her car. She bought a 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe, outfitted with leather seats and all wheel drive. This was a great little soccer mom SUV. It served us well until 2018, when we answered the call of a minivan.

The Santa Fe was a joy to drive, easy to maneuver in and out of tight spaces and virtually maintenance free. The only thing missing was more cargo space, after we started a family and added a German Shepard dog.

For some reason, throughout an 8 year relationship with our Santa Fe, we have approximately zero photos of it. Here instead is the most badass Santa Fe ever. Where can I buy one?

That time it leaked oil

Sketchy dealership service centers

The Santa Fe was designed to be a minimal-maintenance vehicle. I discovered this the first time I rotated its tires. After many years rotating tires on my Chevy and GMC trucks, I'd always been in the habit of greasing the steering and suspension components while the wheels were off. On the Santa Fe, I couldn't find a single grease zerk. I nearly placed a call to South Korea to find out where the manufacturing process went wrong. Then I recalled a website named Google, and two minutes later I had been educated on minimal-maintenance machines.

Minimal, however, is not a substitute for zero. At 70,000 miles, an oil spot appeared on the garage floor. I couldn't locate the source, so we dropped off the Santa Fe at the nearest Hyundai dealership. Diagnosis: failed oil pressure switch. Cost to repair: $900. After absorbing the number and then performing a self-Heimlich, I was able to speak these words to the service representative: Put everything back together and I'll fix it myself.

​Which I did, for about $20. Here's how.

The leaky oil pressure switch allowed oil to make its way here, under the vehicle.

To remove the old switch, the intake manifold has to come off. The manifold is buried under the "surge tank". About 20 electronic sensors have to be disconnected to get past the surge tank and remove the manifold.

The photo below is the intake manifold, after removing the surge tank. My bootleg copy of the Santa Fe service manual recommended a lot more things come off the engine than what was totally necessary. This is as far as I had to go to get access to the intake manifold.

The intake manifold has been removed, revealing the oil pressure switch. The service manual recommended removing the coolant pipe. It gets in the way of the oil pressure switch, but I found a way to get a 24mm socket on the switch (see next photo).

When I understood that I would have to take off the intake manifold, I was not very excited. After doing this twice to replace the lower intake gaskets on both my 1996 GMC Sonoma and my 2004 Chevy Blazer, I figured the Santa Fe project would take a couple days. But thankfully, it was much, much easier. The GM 4.3L V-6 engines require the distributor to be removed, which means the timing must be set correctly when the distributor goes back in. The 4.3's also have very tight clearance on the forward side of the manifold, which requires certain bolts to be removed or loosened on various engine components. None of this was required on the Santa Fe.

If I did this project again, I could probably knock it out in a couple hours. However, I would have to say I was a little disappointed that the oil pressure switch wasn't covered under the 100,000 mile power train warranty. Apparently, anything attached to a wire isn't considered part of the power train, regardless of how much oil is spewing out of your engine.